I remember the first time I heard about The Wicked Cometh on Twitter: “lesbian victorian detectives” someone said, and I was sold! It’s not a very thorough or entirely accurate description of this novel by Laura Carlin, but it’s not far wrong.
In London, 1831, Hester White is desperate to escape the slums by any means available to her. She is thrown into the world of the Brock family, and is drawn to the mysterious Rebekah Brock.
This is a dark and atmospheric thriller that takes the reader on a journey through the unravelling of secrets in a plot twist heavy narrative. I loved the descriptions of London and how brilliantly Laura Carlin is at establishing a strong sense of place and its impact on the characters. It is a slow-paced start and speeds through quickly to its conclusion, but the journey there is lusciously written and will definitely be loved by fans of gothic mysteries.
The paperback has just been released and you can buy it now.
Every week in 2019 I’m going to recommend an LGBTQ book to get off your shelves, or off the book shop/library shelves. It’s not just newly published books that deserve love, so I’m going to share my favourites not published in the last 12 months, and if you haven’t yet read them you should check them out.
This 2017 novel follows the story of Sri Lankan-American Lucky and her husband Krishna. The truth of their marriage is a secret only they know: both Lucky and Krishna are gay.
Lucky is forced to return home when her grandmother has a fall and while there she reconnects with her first lover, Nisha. All the old romantic feelings are rekindled but Nisha is about to marry a man. This impending marriage causes confusion for Lucky; she wants to stop Nisha from a marriage based on lies, but Nisha wants to have the comfort and support of her family, something she doesn’t feel she’ll get without the marriage.
Marriage of a Thousand Lies is a moving portrait of family ties, truth, and love. It is a deep exploration of what it means to live truthfully, and the reality many people face of being excluded from their families and communities if they are open about their sexuality. Sindu writes with depth and clarity, never shying away from uncomfortable moments, but instead embracing them with compassion and honesty.
My reading list of LGBTQ books to read in the next 12 months is phenomenally long, and will probably only get longer as the year goes on. Rather than list them all here I thought I would pull out a few of the ones I’m most looking forward to getting stuck into. Not all of them are 2019 releases, many have been published for a while, so let me know if you’ve read/enjoyed any of them, and what you’re looking forward to reading.
Top 10 LGBTQ books to read in 2019
The House of Impossible Beauties Joseph Cassara
Set in the Harlem ballrooms of the 1980s, this book is the fictionalised account of the foundation of the legendary House of Xtravaganza – a love story, a story of identity, a story about finding your own family in an alienating world. It’s available to buy now.
A Place for Wolves Kosoko Jackson
I’m definitely cheating by including this in books I want to start reading, because I started reading A Place for Wolves this morning, but it’s out in 2019 and will probably be the first book of the year I finish, so I’m including it here.
This novel is about two boys (an American and his Brazilian boyfriend) running for their lives as the war in Kosovo destroys everything around them. It’s available in the UK on 2nd April and you can pre-order it now.
Tales of the City Armistead Maupin
I watched the TV series way way back in the day when it was first aired (and I was very young) so I’ve forgotten it all now. I’ve had Tales of the City, More Tales of the City, and Further Tales of the City on my book shelves for most of 2018 and didn’t get around to reading them, so I’m determined this year to get through these absolute classics of queer literature, about a community in 1970s San Francisco, and remind myself of everything that was great about the TV show.
Pulp Robin Talley
I tried to get started on this at the end of 2018 but fell pray to illness and had to put it to one side. All I hear is people raving about how amazing this book is so I’m looking forward to picking it up again and finishing it. This novel tells two stories of queer women, one from 1955 and one from 2017, and the connection between the generations. It’s available to buy now.
How could I write this list without including the book everyone will want to read in 2019. An anthology of stories, poems, and illustrations by LGBTQ writers and artists, this book is firmly on the top of my to-read pile for 2019.
It features stories and art from: Steve Antony, Dean Atta, Kate Alizadeh, Fox Benwell, Alex Bertie, Caroline Bird, Fatti Burke, Tanya Byrne, Moïra Fowley-Doyle, Frank Duffy, Simon James Green, Leo Greenfield, Saffa Khan, Karen Lawler, David Levithan, Priyanka Meenakshi, Alice Oseman, Michael Lee Richardson, David Roberts, Cynthia So, Kay Staples, Jessica Vallance, Kristen Van Dam and Kameron White.
I can’t wait to read the second novel from Sophie Cameron. I loved Out of the Blue and this one sounds like it’s going to be just as good, just check out the blurb:
Brody Fair has had enough of real life. Enough of the bullies on his block, of being second best to his genius brother, and of not fitting in at school or at home. Then one day he meets Nico. Colourful, confident and flamboyant, he promises to take Brody to Everland, a diverse magical place. A place where he can be himself, where there are no rules, time doesn’t pass, and the party never ends. The only catch? It’s a place so good, you could lose yourself and forget what’s real.
Aidan Lockwood lives in a sleepy farming community known for its cattle ranches and not much else. That is, until Jarrod, a friend he hasn’t seen in years, moves back to town. It’s Jarrod who opens Aidan’s eyes to events he’s long since forgotten, and who awakes in him feelings that go beyond mere friendship. But as Aidan’s memories return, so do some unsettling truths about his family. As Aidan begins to probe into long-buried secrets, the lines between the past and the present, tales and truths, friends and lovers begin to blur, and Aidan will need to confront a family curse before he can lay claim to his life once more.
This is another book that has been on my shelves for a while, but I’m making time for it early in 2019. It’s available to buy now.
How about a book that doesn’t even have a cover yet? I have to include How To Be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters, because I’m pretty sure I’d read anything Julian writes and love it:
“A coming-of-age story about a popular, out-and-proud teen who is assigned to write an essay describing himself, and ends up on a journey to reconcile the labels that people have attached to him.”
Don’t worry, I’ll be the first yelling about this when it’s available for pre-order and there’s a cover ready to show you, but keep an eye out for this brilliant book, it’ll be out in the world on September 10th.
Blue Boy Rakesh Satyal
First published in 2009, this coming of age story about a 12 year old queer Indian boy is one of the first books I’m going to be buying in 2019.
I’ve read some conflicting reviews but most of the negative ones have been boarding on homophobic, which just makes me want to read it more. The paperback is still available to buy.
Dancer from the Dance Andrew Holleran
Another of those classics of gay literature that I’ve still not read (this one called “one of the most important works of gay literature”), so 2019 should be the year I finally read Andrew Holleran’s about a man looking for love in the New York gay clubs of the mid-1970s. You can buy a copy here.
What LGBTQ books are you looking forward to reading in 2019? Let me know, I always need more to add to my shelves (not true, my list is already 75 books long for 2019 – and I’ll review loads of them here!)
I decided to look back on 2018 and write about all the great LGBTQ books I read this year, except I found a bit of a problem with this. I read so many many that the resulting blog post would be longer than anyone wants to read!
This means I’ve had to do the painful task of trying to whittle it down to a top 10 – this was painful, but after weeks of agonising I’ve finally managed it.
If you got some book vouchers for Christmas and don’t know what to spend them on, have a look at the books below, you can’t go far wrong with these. I’ll also be posting my preview of books to look out for in 2019, so if you’ve already read all the books in this post, come back soon for another round of suggestions.
Top 10 (in no particular order)
Jack of Hearts (and other parts) L. C. Rosen
Yes, I’m definitely cheating by including this one, as the paperback is still due for release in the UK, but you can buy the US hardback, and get hold of the ebook easily, and you definitely should.
Full of positive representations of gay sex, explorations of the desexualisation of LGBTQ people in order to make them acceptable to a straight cis audience, and a smattering of stalker drama, this YA contemporary novel is perfect to get you thinking, laughing, and being shocked (if you get shocked by descriptions of threesomes). My full review is here. You can preorder the paperback now.
The Wicked Cometh Laura Carlin
This gothic historical novel is out in paperback very soon, so I’ll be reviewing it in full in the new year to coincide with that. A story set in London in 1832 about women pushing themselves out of their confined roles, investigating crimes, and loving each other.
Heart-warming, heart-breaking, brilliantly realistic and honest. Skylarks deals sensitively with poverty, class, and social injustice whilst giving us a slow-burn romance between two teenage girls.
And what’s not to love about a romance that blossoms while working in a library? I honestly couldn’t put this down and was gripped from the first page. Available to buy now.
The Absolutist John Boyne
A novel of the First World War, set in the immediate years after but travelling back to the trenches to tell the story of 20-year-old Tristan and his life, love, and the trauma of war.
It is predictably depressing, as so many historical novels about gay men are, but the realities are handled sensitively and with compassion. Available to buy now.
Noah Could Never Simon James Green
If you’re looking for a break from all the misery of the historical novels I’ve recommended so far, you can’t do better than Simon James Green’s absolutely hilarious novels.
If you’ve not yet read it, get hold of the first book Noah Can’t Even, before moving on to the second instalment in the life of poor Noah Grimes. The YA book is a mystery, an adventure, a romance, and is (of course) full of embarrassing conundrums that Noah will once again fail to deal with very well, it’s available to buy now.
Mussolini’s Island Sarah Day
Now we’re back to the depressing historical novels, sorry. Set in Italy in 1939, this is a fictionalised account of the true story of an island where gay men were imprisoned. A thriller as well as a deeply moving account of the realities of being a gay man in the 1930s. It is well written and impeccably researched, and is available to buy now.
Running With Lions Julian Winters
Let’s move right back to the more cheerful contemporary novels, but with no less an important point to make. This YA novel, set in a US soccer summer camp, is a brilliant exploration of the role sports can play in bridging differences, celebrating diversity, and providing the space for a queer summer romance. I can’t wait to read Julian’s next novel, because this debut is outstanding – you can buy it now.
Swimming in the Monsoon Sea Shyam Selvadurai
This 2007 novel was recommended to me by the author of the next book in my list (thanks Sophie!) and quickly became a favourite read this year. Set in the monsoon season in Sri Lanka in 1980, this novel is about a young boy trying to find his place in the world, while falling in love with his Canadian cousin, to the backdrop of the school production of Othello.
This is a tale about family, friendship, sexuality, identity, loyalty, and first love. Selvadurai captures the atmosphere of a time and place perfectly and writes with heartbreaking honesty. It’s available to buy now.
Out of the Blue Sophie Cameron
Set in Edinburgh during the festival, when angels are falling from the sky (not figuratively), this book is about grief, love, friendship, obsession, and gives great instructions on how you might go about hiding an angel you who’s fallen to earth. A beautiful novel that I can’t recommend more – buy it now.
The Gloaming Kirsty Logan
My final recommendation has to be included because everything Kirsty Logan does is exquisite. A magical tale of love and grief, full of fairy tales. The novel also explores family relationships and tensions, it gives a haunting portrayal of the ties that bring us home and those that push us away, and it delves deep into grief. A truly magical tale of love available to buy now.
I’ll be posting again in the next few days my anticipated reads of 2019 – they won’t all be new releases because older books deserve some love too, come back soon for more LGBTQ reads.
If you’re looking for a creepy horror book to sink your teeth into this winter, I can highly recommend Under My Skin by Juno Dawson. This book reminded me why I read horror when I was a teenager, except it was infinitely better than anything I read back in the day.
At 17 years old Sally Feathers is just like a lot of young women her age, desperate to make it to the end of school in one piece without any major traumas. Her routine and ordinary life is changed when she encounters a mysterious tattoo parlour in the seedier side of town and is instantly drawn to an image of the beautiful Molly Sue.
Sally images having a secret Molly Sue tattoo on her back will inspire her with the confidence to get a part in the school musical, and perhaps talk to that hot guy who’s dating one of the cool girls. What she didn’t bargain on is Molly Sue having other ideas.
This is an exquisite YA book exploring deeply disturbing ideas of power, loneliness, confidence, identity – all through the medium of carefully crafted and interesting characters in their high school setting. I loved this book and how the strong voices and personalities of the characters shone through the fast moving plot.
Atmospheric and dark, but full of personality and courage, this book is the perfect read for a warm night inside on these dark nights.
Meet Jack Rothman. He’s seventeen and loves partying, makeup and boys – sometimes all at the same time. His sex life makes him the hot topic for the high school gossip machine. But who cares? Like Jack always says, ‘it could be worse’. He doesn’t actually expect that to come true.
But after Jack starts writing an online sex advice column, the mysterious love letters he’s been getting take a turn for the creepy. Jack’s secret admirer knows everything: where he’s hanging out, who he’s sleeping with, who his mum is dating. They claim they love Jack, but not his unashamedly queer lifestyle. They need him to curb his sexuality, or they’ll force him.
As the pressure mounts, Jack must unmask his stalker before their obsession becomes genuinely dangerous.
This book could be one of the most important books published in recent years, if it manages to spark the debates that it is perfectly placed to talk about. It is full of humour, is uplifting, is packed with social commentary, it talks about sex and relationships, and it’s also a thriller – it has everything.
But let’s focus on the thing that everyone wants to talk about…
It is “graphic” in it’s descriptions of sex, depending on your frame of reference, because it depends on what you’re used to. I mean, I’ve read Oscar Wilde’s Telany – this books ain’t got nothing on that! I didn’t find it especially graphic but it is a book for teenagers, and has teenagers characters and going into it readers should be aware of the graphic nature of some sexual descriptions. If that isn’t your thing, don’t read it.
Some reviewers have commented that they didn’t find the book realistic, because “sensible” teenagers don’t behave like the characters. I know trashing teenagers is a bloodsport that so many people love, but let’s give it a rest. Just because you like sex does not mean you’re not “sensible”. Just because you drink or go to parties does not mean you’re not “sensible”. Yes, many of the characters do some questionable things that that occasionally regret in the morning (who doesn’t regret a raging hangover the next day!) but that is part of growing up and learning. It’s a part of learning that even us “sensible” adults are still doing in our 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond. At work I am surround by young people, in their late teens and early twenties. These are “sensible” young people who are studying at one of the best universities in the world, and while I have no idea of the intimate details (to the level of this book) of what they get up to in the privacy of their rooms, I can guarantee you that this book accurately represents what some teenagers are like.
Not all teenagers are the same, they are not one homogenous block and do not all have the same interests, desires, pastimes. They do not all need the same level of support.
Many MANY teenagers will not like this book (as, judging by some reviews on Goodreads, many adults will not either), but let’s stop pretending that teenagers aren’t like the characters in this book, and that many young people won’t identify with them.
It shouldn’t need to be said, but it seems it has to be time and again, that you don’t need to identify with a character – and agree with everything they do – in order to enjoy a book. You don’t need to be like Jack in order to love this book (I managed it). There is so much more to this book than just graphic sex scenes, so I’m going to move on now.
This book repeatedly brings up the subject of consent, and works through the layers of it really well. It talks about not being pressured by society to have sex just because everyone else seems to be doing it. It talks about not being pressured by a partner to do anything that you’re not 100% comfortable with. It talks about how sex should be a constant dialogue, making sure that you are both comfortable with what is happening at all times, and how it’s okay to stop at any point if you don’t feel comfortable.
There are moments when some characters don’t behave with much thought for their safety, such as getting so drunk they don’t remember how they got home. I’ve already addressed above how situations such as this do happen as part of human growth (and don’t just happen to teenagers), and I found parts like this realistic and in keeping with the characters personality and approach to life.
A key aspect of this books success is that it somehow manages to preach a message, without feeling like the reader is being told what to do or think. The advice columns that Jack writes do feel like lessons, but they’re kinda supposed to due to what they are – the rest of the book manages to give the reader a sense of who these characters are, and the ways in which they mess up and try to fix things again, without it coming across like the author is giving a sermon.
Don’t be too gay
The most important aspect (for me) is how this book addresses homophobia – including the internalised homophobia of some gay characters. This was an absolute breath of fresh air in a book, and something that needs to be said loud so we can start to talk about it.
Too often, LBGTQ+ content is sanitised before it is allowed to be put out into the world, and this seems especially true in the past, and true of YA content. I hope that we are now turning a corner when we can be more honest about the lives of LGBTQ+ people, and our voices can be heard. However, we are far from out of the straight woods yet. In 2018 a gay film won an Oscar after it stripped out all but the merest hints of sex (yes, I know many people think Call Me By Your Name has a lot of sexual content, but read the book and then come and talk to me about how let down we were by the director). There is a sense in much LGBTQ+ media that we have received acceptance from the world when it comes to love, but only if we don’t talk about sex, only if we don’t conform to stereotypes, only if we are indistinguishable from everyone else in the straight cis world. Honestly, it’s exhausting! It effectively puts LGBTQ+ people back into the closet, where they cannot be the true authentic versions of themselves. What does this have to do with Jack of Hearts (and other parts)? Well, that is something at the heart of the book, it is at it’s very core and runs throughout. Jack puts himself out into the world as someone who conforms to a lot of the stereotypes people have about gay men, and he struggles against both straight people and some gay people who think he “is giving gays a bad name”. Jack is being asked to change who he is, not for his own benefit, but for the benefit of a society that would rather gay men are quiet and never have sex (or certainly never talk about it).
I hope this book finds its way onto the YA shelves of bookshops, libraries, and schools – as well as into the hands of adults who will love it just as much. It’s an important book that needs to be read.
Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) is out in the US and UK in eBook on 30th October 2018. It’s out in paperback in the UK in February 2019. You can preorder now:
I recently spent an afternoon in the amazing Gay’s The Word and came home with a fantastic selection of 8 books to recommend you all. There were a few I went in deliberately to buy, but most gathered from browsing. I think I walked backwards and forwards around the shop a hundred times trying to decide what to leave behind, it was such a hard decision. Eventually we came home with a shoulder-aching haul that are my picks for September:
Fanny and Stella: The Young Men Who Shocked Victorian England by Neil McKenna Non-Fiction/Biography
28th April 1870. The flamboyantly dressed Miss Fanny Park and Miss Stella Boulton are causing a stir in the Strand Theatre. All eyes are riveted upon their lascivious oglings of the gentlemen in the stalls. Moments later they are led away by the police. What followed was a scandal that shocked and titillated Victorian England in equal measure. It turned out that the alluring Miss Fanny Park and Miss Stella Boulton were no ordinary young women. Far from it. In fact, they were young men who liked to dress as women. When the Metropolitan Police launched a secret campaign to bring about their downfall, they were arrested and subjected to a sensational show trial in Westminster Hall. As the trial of ‘the Young Men in Women’s Clothes’ unfolded, Fanny and Stella’s extraordinary lives as wives and daughters, actresses and whores were revealed to an incredulous public. With a cast of peers, politicians and prostitutes, drag queens, doctors and detectives, “Fanny and Stella” is a Victorian peepshow, exposing the startling underbelly of nineteenth-century London. By turns tragic and comic, meticulously researched and dazzlingly written, “Fanny and Stella” is an enthralling tour-de-force.
Hild by Nicola Griffith Historical Fiction
Britain in the seventh century – and the world is changing. Small kingdoms are merging, frequently and violently. Edwin, King of Northumbria, plots his rise to overking of all the Angles. Ruthless and unforgiving, he is prepared to use every tool at his disposal: blood, bribery, belief. Into this brutal, vibrant court steps Hild – Edwin’s youngest niece.
With her glittering mind and powerful curiosity, Hild has a unique way of reading the world. By studying nature, observing human behavior and matching cause with effect, she has developed the ability to make startlingly accurate predictions. It is a gift that can seem uncanny, even supernatural, to those around her.
It is also a valuable weapon. Hild is indispensable to Edwin – unless she should ever lead him astray. The stakes are life and death: for Hild, for her family, for her loved ones, and for the increasing numbers who seek the protection of the strange girl who can see the future and lead men like a warrior.
The Hungry Ghosts by Shyam Selvadurai Fiction
In Sri Lankan myth, a person who dies may be reborn a “hungry ghost”–a ghost with a large stomach that can never be filled through its tiny mouth–if he has desired too much during his life. It is the duty of the living to free the dead who are doomed to this fate by transferring karma from their own good deeds. In Shyam Selvadurai’s masterful new novel, Shivan, a troubled young man of mixed Tamil and Sinhalese ancestry, is preparing to travel from Toronto, Canada, to the land of his childhood, Sri Lanka, to rescue his ailing grandmother and bring her back to die. But on the eve of his departure–as Shivan meditates on his turbulent past, recalls his gradual discovery of his homosexuality, and wrestles with his complicated relationship with the wily old woman–he discovers just how much his own heart’s desires are entwined with the volatile political, racial, and sexual mix of Sri Lanka’s past and present. In the end, Shivan must decide: will he rescue his grandmother, or join her? The Hungry Ghosts is an unconventional exploration of the immigrant experience; a tale of family ties and the long reach of the past; and a heart-wrenching look at how racial, political, and sexual differences can tear apart a country, a family, and a human being.
Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin YA Historical Fiction
In the summer of 1926, sixteen-year-old Garnet Richardson is sent to a lake resort to escape the polio epidemic in the city. She dreams of indulging her passion for ornithology and visiting the famous new amusement park–a summer of fun before she returns for her final year of high school, after which she’s expected to marry a nice boy and settle into middle-class homemaking. But in the country, Garnet finds herself under the supervision of equally oppressive guardians–her father’s wealthy cousin and the matron’s stuck-up daughter. Only a liberating job in a hat shop, an intense, secret relationship with a daring and beautiful flapper, and a deep faith in her own fierce heart can save her from the suffocating boredom of traditional femininity.
The Charioteer by Mary Renault Fiction
Injured at Dunkirk, Laurie Odell, a young corporal, is recovering at a rural veterans’ hospital. There he meets Andrew, a conscientious objector serving as an orderly. The men find solace in each other’s friendship, which slowly develops into a covert, chaste romance. Then Ralph Lanyon appears, a mentor from Laurie’s school days, and now a naval officer. Through him, Laurie is drawn into a tight-knit circle of gay men with few illusions about life, and for whom liaisons are fleeting. He is forced to choose between the ideals of a perfect friendship and the pleasures of experience.
First published in 1953, The Charioteer is a a tender, intelligent coming-of-age novel and a bold, unapologetic portrayal of homosexuality
Fighting Proud: The Untold Story of the Gay Men Who Served in Two World Wars by Stephen Bourne Non-Fiction/History
Unearthing the stories of the gay men who served in the armed forces and at home, and bringing to light the great unheralded contribution they made to the war effort. Fighting Proud weaves together the remarkable lives of these men, from RAF hero Ian Gleed – a Flying Ace twice honoured for bravery by King George VI – to the infantry officers serving in the trenches on the Western Front in WWI – many of whom led the charges into machine-gun fire only to find themselves court-marshalled after the war for indecent behaviour. Behind the lines, Alan Turing’s work on breaking the -enigma machine- and subsequent persecution contrasts with the many stories of love and courage in Blitzed-out London, with new wartime diaries and letters unearthed for the first time. Bourne tells the bitterly sad story of Ivor Novello, who wrote the WWI anthem -Keep the Home Fires Burning, – and the crucial work of Noel Coward – who was hated by Hitler for his work entertaining the troops. Fighting Proud also includes a wealth of long-suppressed wartime photography.
Moonstruck, Volume One: Magic to Brew by Grace Ellis & Shae Beagle Fantasy/Graphic Novel
Werewolf barista Julie and her new girlfriend go on a date to a close-up magic show, but all heck breaks loose when the magician casts a horrible spell on their friend Chet. Now it’s up to the team of mythical pals to stop the illicit illusionist before it’s too late.
The Flower Beneath The Foot by Ronald Firbank Fiction/Satire
At the fantastical court of King Willie and Her Dreaminess the Queen of Pisuerga, maid of honour Laura de Nazianzi and His Weariness Prince Yousef whisper promises to each other in the palace gardens. But Laura is destined for disappointment. The King and Queen have plans for a royal wedding for their Prince, and the young woman in their sights is none other than Princess Elsie of England. The court is all aflutter.
First published in 1923, Ronald Firbank’s The Flower Beneath the Foot is a flamboyant court satire and lyrical tour de force of innuendo and eccentricity. Read by many as a subversive celebration of homosexuality, this is a classic of modernist literature from a stylist like no other.
All these books are available from Gay’s The Word. I’m starting with some novel research and reading Fighting Proud – if you’ve read any of these let me know what you thought.
I managed to write a post of what I read in July…and then forgot to make it live! So here’s a bumper issue of LGBTQ+ books you can get stuck into as we enter autumn and all stop melting into a sweaty puddle! If you want to receive these updates straight to your inbox, just subscribe here.
I finally got hold of the much anticipated THE MADONNA OF BOLTON, a crowdfunded novel from Unbound that became the fastest funded in their history. It tells the story of Charlie, whose life changes when he gets his first Madonna record on his 9th birthday. The novel follows Charlie’s life from childhood in the 1980s to the present day, with Madonna’s music the ever present back-drop guiding him through life’s difficult moments. A poignant, funny, and ultimately heart-warming of a boy growing up gay in Britain from the 1970s to now.
I also read:I Am Nobody’s N***** by Dean Atta, a collection of poems that I can’t stop thinking about weeks after reading. My Heart Goes Bang by Keris Stainton, yet another brilliant novel from the ever marvellous Keris, funny, uplifting, full of hope and sex – I adored this book a lot. More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera– I don’t know why I continue ready Adam’s books when all I do is end up an emotional wreck – this book destroyed me in it’s subject matter and how brilliantly Adam dealt with memory, grief, and coming to terms with your sexuality.
So, what great reads might you have missed that weren’t released this summer? Check out these recommendations below for suggestions you can still get hold of in your book store or library.
Set in Edinburgh during the festival, OUT OF THE BLUE tells the story of Jaya, whose father has, since the death of her mother, become obsessed with angels. His obsession started when angels started falling from the sky. But when an angel falls right in front of Jaya, she must decide how she’s going to keep this secret and protect the angel from the people who would harm the being. This was a completely unexpected story that took me to places I wasn’t prepared for. It is a beautiful story that explores grief and how it’s possible to move on and still find happiness.
Everyone kept telling me to read this book, and they weren’t wrong. STARRING KITTY is the story of 14-year-old Kitty who falls in love with Dylan, a 15-year old girl who lives next door to her gran. Kitty is not coping well with her mum’s illness, and hasn’t yet told her friends that she likes girls. This absolutely adorably cute novel is just perfect, it explores first love and friendship, taking us on a journey as Kitty struggles to bring together all the parts of her life, let Dylan into her world, and open up to her friends about her relationship.
I’m looking forward to getting started on volume 2 of this adorable, funny, beautifully illustrated graphic novel.
When Jory transfers to an all-boys private high school, he’s taken in by the only ones who don’t treat him like a new kid, the lowly stage crew known as the Backstagers. Not only does he gain great, lifetime friends, Jory is also introduced to an entire magical world that lives beyond the curtain. With the unpredictable twists and turns of the underground world, the Backstagers venture into the unknown, determined to put together the best play their high school has ever seen.
I’ve bought some books recently that have been added to the top of my to-read pile, and I’m really looking forward to getting around to reading them:
Recently nominated for the Polari Prize, this novel is based on the true story of the arrest and interment of gay men in Sicily 1939.
Francesco has a memory of his father from early childhood, a night when life for his family changed. From that night, he has vowed to protect his mother and to follow the words of his father: Non mollare. Never give up. As Francesco is herded into a camp on the island of San Domino, he realises that someone must have handed a list of names to the fascist police. Locked in spartan dormitories, resentment and bitterness between the men grows each day.
A story about coming of age in rural America, family, love, mystery, and magic. I can’t wait to read this very soon.
Seventeen-year-old Aidan Lockwood lives in the sleepy farming community of Temperance, Ohio?known for its cattle ranches and not much else. That is, until Jarrod, a friend he hasn’t seen in five years, moves back to town and opens Aidan’s eyes in startling ways: to Aidan’s ability to see the spirit world; to the red-bearded specter of Death; to a family curse that has claimed the lives of the Lockwood men one by one . . . and to the new feelings he has developed for Jarrod.
I’m taking a trip to Gay’s The Word next week to purchase more great LGBTQ+ books, so if you have any recommendations let me know. Below are the books I’m looking forward to getting hold of in the next month of so:
Okay, so it’s not out until next year, but get Proud added to your to-read pile (and your Goodreads, and your pre-orders) now. This illustrated anthology from Stripes will be hitting shelves in March, and I know I’m not the only one excited to read all the stories.
In this graphic novel in rhymed couplets, a young boy tackles homophobia in school by planting pansies at the site of homophobic attacks, taking strength from the flowers he loves. The power of his actions empowers his school to value what is delicate and different. The book comes to life in vivid graphic art and comes complete with a personal field guide to the flowers and birds included in its pages.
The heat is oppressive and storms are brewing in Brighton in the summer of 1982. Little Gold, a boyish girl on the brink of adolescence, is struggling with the reality of her broken family and a home descending into chaos. Her only refuge is the tree at the end of her garden. Into her fractured life steps Peggy Baxter. The connection between the two is instant, but just when it seems that Little Gold has found solace, outsiders appear who seek to take advantage of her frail family in the worst way possible. In an era when so much is hard to speak aloud, can Little Gold share enough of her life to avert disaster? And can Peggy Baxter, a woman running out of time and with her own secrets to bear, recognize the danger before it’s too late?
Scottee grew up around strong, brave and violent men and boys. Bravado is his memoir of working class masculinity from 1991 to 1999 as seen by a sheep in wolf’s clothing.Bravado explores the graphic nature of maleness and the extent it will go to succeed. This show is not for the weak hearted, it includes graphic accounts of violence, abuse, assault and sex.
When Francesco is rounded up with a group of young men and herded into a camp on the island of San Domino, he realises that someone has handed a list of names to the fascist police; everyone is suspicious of one another. Elena, a young and illiterate island girl on the cusp of womanhood, is drawn to the handsome Francesco yet fails to understand why her family try to keep her away from him. When Elena discovers the truth about the group of prisoners, the fine line between love and hate pulls her towards an act that can only have terrible consequences for all. A novel of sexuality and desire, of hidden passions and the secrets we keep locked within us. Based on the true story of the rounding up of a group of Sicilian gay men in 1939
It’s nearly July, so it’s about time I did a round-up of what LGBTQ+ books I read in June, what I’m looking forward to, and other recommendations. If you want to receive these updates straight to your inbox, just subscribe here.
June was a great month for books, and here are some of the best ones that were released recently:
Noah and Harry are now officially boyfriends, but is Noah ready to go all the way? It’s no help that a group of cosmopolitan French exchange students have descended on Little Fobbing – including sexy Pierre Victoire, who seems to have his eye on Harry! Meanwhile, Noah’s paired up with a girl … who, most outrageously, is not even French. But that’s not all: the police are monitoring Noah, and he can’t tell if it’s because his dad and secret half-brother, Eric, have made off with his gran’s fake diamonds; because his PE teacher is receiving mysterious cash infusions from Russia; or because drag queen Bambi Sugapops is hiding out at Noah’s house in the midst of a knock-down, bare-knuckled drag feud. Will Noah ever catch a break?
Bloomington High School Lions’ star goalie, Sebastian Hughes, should be excited about his senior year: His teammates are amazing and he’s got a coach who doesn’t ask anyone to hide their sexuality. But when his estranged childhood best friend Emir Shah shows up to summer training camp, Sebastian realises the team’s success may end up in the hands of the one guy who hates him. Determined to reconnect with Emir for the sake of the Lions, he sets out to regain Emir’s trust. But to Sebastian’s surprise, sweaty days on the pitch, wandering the town’s streets, and bonding on the weekends sparks more than just friendship between them.
And More:Boy Meets Hamster by Birdie Milano (YA, Contemporary) – a funny and adorably cute story of 14 year old Dylan’s summer holiday love-hate relationship with a caravan park’s hamster mascot.
So, what great reads might you have missed that weren’t released yesterday? Check out these recommendations below for suggestions you can still get hold of in your book store or library.
Keep your head down and don’t borrow trouble is the motto Joni lives by, and so far it’s seen her family through some tough times. It’s not as if she has the power to change anything important anyway. Like Dad’s bad back, or the threat of losing their house.
So when Annabel breezes into her life, Joni’s pretty sure they’re destined to clash. Pretty, poised, privileged – the daughter of the richest family in town must have it easy.
But sometimes you find a matching spirit where you least expect it. Sometimes love can defy difference. And sometimes life asks you to be bigger and braver …
Lucky and her husband, Krishna, are gay. They present an illusion of marital bliss to their conservative Sri Lankan–American families, while each dates on the side. It’s not ideal, but for Lucky, it seems to be working. But when Lucky’s grandmother has a nasty fall, Lucky returns to her childhood home and unexpectedly reconnects with her former best friend and first lover, Nisha, who is preparing for her own arranged wedding with a man she’s never met. As the connection between the two women is rekindled, Lucky tries to save Nisha from entering a marriage based on a lie. But does Nisha really want to be saved? And after a decade’s worth of lying, can Lucky break free of her own circumstances and build a new life?
I’ve read some fantastic books in the last month, many of which I’ve recommended in this post already. But there are loads more and here are a selection of my top recommendations.
James is 34 and fed up. His six-year relationship with Adam has imploded, he hates his job making up celebrity gossip, and his best friend Bella has just announced she’s moving to Russia. Adrift and single in loved-up London, James needs to break out of his lonely, drunken comfort zone. Encouraged by Bella, he throws himself headlong into online dating, blogging each encounter anonymously as the mysterious Romeo
After meeting a succession of hot/weird/gross men, James has fans and the validation he’s always craved. But when his wild night with a closeted Olympian goes viral and sends his Twitter-fame through the roof, James realises maybe, in the search for happy-ever-after, some things are better left un-shared. Seriously, wherefore art thou Romeo
And More: More Than This by Patrick Ness (YA, Sci-fi/Dystopia) – As beautifully written, moving, and confusing as you’d expect from a Ness novel; The Third Reel by S.J. Naude (Fiction, Historical) – a wander through 80s London, East and West Germany, and an exploration of film history, love, sex, and obsession.
Coming out next month is the brilliant Floored, a collaborative novel by seven YA authors (Sara Barnard, Holly Bourne, Tanya Byrne, Non Pratt, Melinda Salisbury, Lisa Williamson and Eleanor Wood). It features a bisexual main character who is just one of 6 main characters, and is out on 10th July and can be pre-ordered now.
I loved this book and the different views the story is being told from. It’s full of friendship, love, compassion and so much heart.
F, M or Other: Quarrels with the Gender Binary
This anthology of writing about gender is technically already available as it was recently funded on Kickstarter – but I’m adding it to coming soon because I can’t yet see it online for sale, but it should be very soon. Keep an eye on the publisher’s website for more information.